I’m not going to try to make an argument that you don’t need to eat gluten free unless you have Celiac’s disease. That point has already been made here. And here. And here. And here. Seriously, you do not need to have a gluten free diet. Who is giving you health advice, Gwyneth Paltrow? It may make you feel better, but it also may be because you are paying more attention to what you eat, maybe incorporating some non gluten veggies into your diet. Or you’re just not eating a bag of french fries for dinner. Either way, you’re probably not allergic and you may even know this deep down. If so, please stop offending people with Celiac’s disease. And anyone that needs to make food for you, or eat with you, or listen to your idiocy in any way.
But gluten, the trend, not the staple of human diets for thousands of years that mysteriously didn’t cause problems until recently, can tell us a lot. Namely that we will believe anything, especially when it comes to health and diet. For years people have used diet pills to lose weight even though there is no evidence that they work. Other ridiculous ways that people have tried to lose weight: creams, injecting infertility drugs, and wearing belts, girdles, and other clothing available for 2 easy payments of $9.99. We should all know losing weight does not mean being in better shape, and neither is simply building for muscle. Still people will ingest deer antler spray, or Nitric Oxide, caffeine pills, various forms of creatine, and dozens of useless protein supplements. People swear by them even if science rejects them. Believe in the powder. You know, not the actual work that you put in at the gym to justify the ridiculous cost you spent on a scam.
While we’re on the topic of muscle building, people around this time of year get all up in arms about who potentially injected steroids because it’s time to induct people into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Even though the evidence of how much steroids helped athletes play better is inconclusive, baseball players sure believed in them and now the people that judge their careers sure believe in them too. Even if players like Mike Piazza or Jeff Bagwell were not caught using steroids, they are judged harsher because Hall of Fame voters KNOW that they were too muscular and powerful, therefore they DEFINTELY abused steroids (and are obviously unethical cheaters). Ignore the change in ballparks, strike zones, baseball composition, and statistical variations, but believe steroids are the explanation for everything. Conveniently people forget that athletes have used a variety of things to enhance their athletic performances for decades dating back to the early 1900s when baseball players were eating animal testicles to gain power. Wash those down with a glass of 3-penis wine and you’ve got yourself a dinner that will transform you into a god. Probably. Who can really say? I mean if they believed in it, it had to be true, right? Yes, of course that’s ridiculous. You know, like being afraid of wheat. But hey, believers are going to believe.
I thought part of the gluten craze was trying to take a shortcut to fitness. But I now think part of it is just plain wanting to be part of something, to have an excuse, and to be a special snowflake. In reality we’re all basically the same boring people with the same boring conditions. Still we have the natural reaction of reading something that we haven’t heard about yet and relating it to ourselves pretty regularly. It doesn’t even need to be anything good. I thought I had SAD because I was always more depressed in the winter and I kept seeing articles about it. Turns out I had a bad case of “You live in Massachusetts, its cold and everyone is miserable.” Also depression, but that’s a different story for another day, and it has nothing to do with sunlight.
We hear something and we remember a bad experience or something we have left ourselves vulnerable to, and we assume the worst. Odds are against anything being wrong but if the trusty anchorman says it to be true (or in this generation favorite news website, NPR, Kardashian sister) we should probably believe it to be true. And panic. “Studies show that people who don’t eat enough bananas are more likely to suffer from cancer.” Oh my god I haven’t had a banana in years. I’m a goner. I wish I had more time to pick out my casket. I wonder if they’ll have anything gluten-free to eat at the wake?
We want to believe there is a reason for what is happening to us and that we’re not alone. As a psych major I learned quickly (after a good semester of wild panic) that I don’t suffer from every disorder in the DSM despite some similarities in symptoms. Hey, I’m tired a lot, and have headaches. I’m definitely suffering from everything in chapters 6-12. What do you mean “did I drink a lot last night?” In reality just because you can remember a time that you ate too much bread and had a stomach ache doesn’t mean you need to drastically alter your diet. There are probably countless times that you ate pasta, cereal, or cookies, (or drank an unhealthy amount of beer) yet felt no desire to jump on the bandwagon. Oh my god I feel so awful when I have a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies too. Let’s be gluten twins.
You know that these trends bank on huge generalities to grab the attention and faith of the most people right? It’s no different than psychics, horoscopes, or fortune cookies. If you honestly can’t discern between marketing and science how are you expecting to live in this world? For one thing your diet will change every week trying to keep up with #BREAKINGNEWS, but so will every other product that you buy as studies show that 99% of them will bring you nothing but cancer or some other horrible death. Everything will kill you, your family, or will lead to the end of the world. Why? Because we want to believe that we can fix everything, and because everyone wants to sell us the magical tool to fix it with.
So say it with me now. Out loud, no mouthing it. We can’t fix everything and we shouldn’t try. I know it’s hard because we still want to believe that we are in control; that we can be the healthiest or the strongest, the prettiest, or the coolest, as long as we change something, believe in something, or buy something. Please believe me instead. Your gluten free bagels won’t help you and neither will your expensive coat. If anyone paid attention to the Middle-School PSAs that they spoon fed us I would jump off my soapbox now. But that is not the case, so this soapbox hopefully won’t collapse under the weight of all the bread that I still eat.
Why do we keep enabling people who demand a gluten free diet when their body doesn’t actually require it? Why didn’t anyone stop this before up to 30% of the population in the US is now at least considering going gluten-free? An army of people who are drastically changing the way we eat it because of misguided beliefs is shameful. I do wish the skeptic in me (pretty much 99% of me) wasn’t bothered by others believing in insane things without any evidence or logic. I should probably be used to it in a country where a quarter of the population still doesn’t believe the president was born in this country, among others inane conspiracy theories. Yes, in the US, where you can’t send a dick pic without the NSA knowing, we have no way of investigating where our commander in chief hails from? Twenty-two million people still believe the moon landing was fake. 35% of Americans don’t believe in global warming either; somehow it’s easier to believe in self-reported gluten sensitivity than the best minds that our scientific community can come up with on the destruction of the environment. Yes, I agree, we are doomed.
I wish it ended there. Up to 20% of people think vaccines cause autism, because they listen to Jenny McCarthy more than science. Yes, I loved Singled Out as much as the next guy, but come on people. I recently learned that Americans apparently used to believe the government put fluoride in the water as part of some sinister plot. I thought this was just a joke on Parks and Rec, but apparently it’s true. Thankfully people stopped believing in the dangers of H2Flow and put their unearned faith in more believable things. Like Bigfoot. Nearly 3 in 10 people believe that Bigfoot probably exists, even though no one has yet to find a set of bones for the creature. We can find dinosaur bones from 65 million years ago but we can’t find any remains from 10 ft tall apes that share the same time and space as us. Yep. We live in a world where Sasquashes are like ninjas that hide the bones of their dead relatives so that people will not find them. Of course, a large percentage of the “people” in our society are actually lizards anyway, so who can you really trust?
But what’s the harm in believing in something insane if it makes you feel better? Why don’t you ask the staff at Charlie Hebdo? Oh that’s right you can’t. Because they’re dead now. What a fucking disgrace. Is it a stretch to compare someone who believes in not eating gluten to religious fundamentalists? Of course it is. When glutards start terrorizing the smart people in the world because they publish cartoons of bread, only then could we lump them together. I don’t think GLUTEN-FREE LIFE (even if it’s tattooed across your chest) should be a crime. But when you say you believe something and are provided a barrel of reasons why those beliefs are ridiculous and your response is either “well it makes me feel better” or “it’s just what I believe”, just know that you are being an idiot. You may not be reeking terrorist level destruction, but you are using the same irrational mental tricks to justify your decisions. I believe because I believe. Well, I believe you are a moron.
Before you say it, I know that believing in ridiculous things can have its benefits. With gluten free hypochondriacs pushing demand it has opened up the menu for the small percentage of people that actually need to eat that way. Cheers to Celiac’s! Likewise for people who believe in various religions there are often the benefits of community, charity, and finding personal meaning. But beliefs are still problematic, not because they are inherently dangerous, but because of their inability to be changed as you find out new and useful information. I look to the words of the great prophet (or apostle in this case) Chris Rock that he delivered in Dogma: “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should be malleable and progressive, working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth. New ideas can’t generate. Life becomes stagnant.”
Once those ideas are cemented in there as beliefs there’s no real hope in changing them. Beliefs allow people to think irrationally and never question their thoughts, words, or actions. Without using the word belief, can you tell me why a woman showing her ankle is disrespectful? Or why people should not be able use electricity during the weekend in today’s society? Tell me why a same-sex couple should not be able to get married because of the words in an old book, while other “words of God” are conveniently ignored. Don’t really tell me though. I know the answer is because that is what you believe in. Like gluten. Want to cause a scene at a restaurant when someone mixed your food with treacherous wheat products? Get special attention when ordering take-out at work, or just pontificating about how much better that you feel now to anyone not yet enlightened? Maybe, you just want to feel proud of eating healthier when you’re really not. Sure, go for it you true believers (glu believers?). Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re cuckoo for coco puffs (which sadly you can no longer eat). Screw the evidence. Just trust your gut.